ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – A native of the Pine Ridge reservation in South Dakota, Eriq Swiftwater had quite the journey to get to the Duke City Gladiators. Swiftwater finished his college career at Black Hills State during the COVID-19 Pandemic and struggled to sign with a team until he met Gladiators assistant coach Fred Griggs. Now that he’s a pro athlete, credits his time in the foster care system for giving him his motivation.

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“It was a very difficult time and it taught me a lot about where my heart is, who’s important to me,” said Swiftwater. “I have this tattoo that says ‘For Me, For Us’ because everything that I do is for me, but in the big picture it’s for us as a family. It taught me a lot about caring for one another and how much family means, and I think that driving that kind of family influence is what makes claim for me.”

Swiftwater has seen a larger role in the Gladiators offense as a receiver and has been finding the end zone for Duke City. As he continues to make a name for himself on the gridiron, he knows how much it means to the kids in his hometown. He has hosted various youth camps for his community and hopes to inspire the next generation of athletes.

“I understand what it’s like to be a seven, eight year old kid with a ball in his hands looking up to somebody in a jersey. I was once that kid in foster care. When the college kids came out and played catch with us, it was the biggest day of my life, greatest moment of my life. I keep that memory when we do a lot of things because I understand the impact that it can have.”

The personality of Swiftwater is something that doesn’t go unnoticed in the locker room. Listed as a wide receiver, he actually has the ability to play on both sides of the field and he brings a team first attitude with him every day.

“He can do anything and everything that you ask him to do, and he doesn’t give you attitude when he does it,” coach Carter said. “He’s one of those guys that you want on your team.”